What’s in a Church?

Belongs to Gabriela Yareliz

Belongs to Gabriela Yareliz

By: Gabriela Yareliz

One of my favorite things to do in New York is visit churches. Many of them are old and filled with exquisite beauty and detail. This post is about how I recently found one of my favorite churches in the city.

I was walking the Highline Park some weeks ago, and I decided to get off in the Chelsea area. I figured I hadn’t walked through those quadrants by those avenues, and the architecture was intriguing. I was walking around 20th St., by Ninth and Tenth Avenue in Manhattan, when I ran into a gate enclosing a world from 1817. Its motto: “Thy Word is Truth”.

Belongs to Gabriela Yareliz

Belongs to Gabriela Yareliz

The buildings reminded me of a castle or the old British colleges I spent hours looking at online in high school. It was like finding Narnia + another century + another country. These photos are from the exact day when I walked past the gate. I almost smushed my face into the gate bars, trying to get a better view. People were moving into the place. I then noticed the sign that said it was a seminary school. Of course, I thought. I knew there had to be a chapel in there somewhere.

Belongs to Gabriela Yareliz

Belongs to Gabriela Yareliz

I stood at the gate for as long as I could without looking suspect. I kept walking to see if there was an entrance, and I found nothing. Still, I walked home with a gigantic smile plastered on my face.

Belongs to Gabriela Yareliz

Belongs to Gabriela Yareliz

I walked home through the NYC I have come to know filled with taxis, tourists, students with strange haircuts–you name it. As I walked home, I knew I needed to see the seminary inside. It was going to happen.

Belongs to Gabriela Yareliz

Belongs to Gabriela Yareliz

The seminary stayed on my mind. I wanted in. I was in the fluorescent law school building taking a break, and I Googled the seminary. I found it on Yelp. Weird, I thought. It said there were gardens inside and that it was open to visitors. I got heart palpitations. I would be able to see it inside and not look like a freak because I was honestly considering just calling the place and begging the administration for a tour. So I worked my butt off and drank Kale juice for energy through the torment of doing double assignments to free the following afternoon. I went the next day.

Belongs to Gabriela Yareliz

Belongs to Gabriela Yareliz

The next day was glorious; sweater weather that felt like early spring. The sun was bright, but I was brighter. I was walking down another street this time because it turns out you can enter the seminary through a street that is north of where I had been before.

Belongs to Gabriela Yareliz

Belongs to Gabriela Yareliz

When I arrived, a kind Latina greeted me at the reception. She took my ID and gave me a visitor pass. I assume they take ID to make sure you exit the place; so weirdlings like myself don’t stay and sleep on the green grass courtyard.

Belongs to Gabriela Yareliz

Belongs to Gabriela Yareliz

Belongs to Gabriela Yareliz

Belongs to Gabriela Yareliz

Belongs to Gabriela Yareliz

Belongs to Gabriela Yareliz

I walked past the dormitories, a tiny playground and a BBQ grill surrounded by cute tables and chairs. I looked up and down and around; examining every building and open window. The place was lovely. It was old world, for sure.

I imagined the buildings when they were new in the 1800s and the people that must have lived in them. I wondered what struggles the people might’ve had, and whether they sat on the same steps reading their Bibles and wondering what God’s plan was for their lives.

Belongs to Gabriela Yareliz

Belongs to Gabriela Yareliz

Belongs to Gabriela Yareliz

Belongs to Gabriela Yareliz

When I started walking toward the gardens, I started to see some of what I had seen through the gate. There was green grass everywhere. It was marvelous. Grass you could sleep on. Grass that was soft and without noticeable ant piles (can you tell I am from Florida?).

Belongs to Gabriela Yareliz

Belongs to Gabriela Yareliz

Belongs to Gabriela Yareliz

Belongs to Gabriela Yareliz

Then, I saw the church. I sat on a bench in front of it to enjoy the view. This was another world tucked into a corner of Manhattan. I then walked in through the grand front doors into the empty sanctuary.

Belongs to Gabriela Yareliz

Belongs to Gabriela Yareliz

It was unique from the others I had seen. It was well lit and not dim and mysterious.

A verse I really love in the Bible, where God describes Himself, is Revelation 22:13: “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.” When you walk into the church, the stain glass window shows Jesus in many stages of His ministry and life, if I remember correctly, and at the top, He sits on a throne as King. On both sides of the window are the symbols for Alpha and Omega. This moved me deeply. It was a profound, artistic detail I had never seen before.

Check out the photos below of the seminary campus:

Belongs to Gabriela Yareliz

Belongs to Gabriela Yareliz

Belongs to Gabriela Yareliz

Belongs to Gabriela Yareliz

Belongs to Gabriela Yareliz

Belongs to Gabriela Yareliz

Belongs to Gabriela Yareliz

Belongs to Gabriela Yareliz

Belongs to Gabriela Yareliz

Belongs to Gabriela Yareliz

Belongs to Gabriela Yareliz

Belongs to Gabriela Yareliz

Belongs to Gabriela Yareliz

Belongs to Gabriela Yareliz

Belongs to Gabriela Yareliz

Belongs to Gabriela Yareliz

Belongs to Gabriela Yareliz

Belongs to Gabriela Yareliz

Belongs to Gabriela Yareliz

Belongs to Gabriela Yareliz

I have a great love for churches, and it’s not so much about the building, but it’s about what the beauty inside inspires. Having the opportunity to be at the seminary was lovely, and I wanted to share my photos with you all so you could see the old beauty and inspiring art. More than that, we live in a day and age when people are skeptical of religion. People think of religion as something shallow and delusional.

I think of religion as seeing God’s hand in my life every day. I see how He orchestrates the details of my life like the artist that must have organized and planned each incredible detail one can find in a church building. I think of peace and stillness. I have seen God’s hand in my life in a powerful way, dramatic and beautiful way.

This chapel, with its many symbols, reminded me that: God is the beginning and the end. He is merciful and mighty to save me from myself. And more than anything, He is not a distant God that watches me from a distance; He is not a God I need to pacify or try to please out of fear. Instead, He is a God that has blessed me so abundantly and has shown me His unfailing love, no matter what I have done. He is a God that is constantly drawing as near to me as I allow Him to be. He walks with me. He guides me. He is that strong hand that lifts me when I fall. He is king.

In an old church, I love to look at the windows. I love looking at stained glass. Each window tells a story. And as many of you know, I love a good story. Each window’s story reminds me of the miracles and the walk my God walks and lives. Each window reminds me that the powerful God I see has not changed. He is my God, and I am His child.

In the stillness, in the peace, in the conversation, in the beauty and in the light, I see His faithfulness through and through, and I know that with God, ALL THINGS ARE POSSIBLE. (Mark 10:27)

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2 thoughts on “What’s in a Church?

  1. Hi Gabriela, I am Jonathan Silver, Director of Development, Alumni, and Church Relations at General Seminary. I’m sorry I was not made aware when you came for your visit; I would have been delighted to give you a ‘full tour’ and answer any questions you might have. Please feel free to get in touch with me and come back for another visit, including perhaps lunch with our community!

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